As I walked off the plane and into the airport terminal, I breathed in a familiar smell; heat. I don’t know about the sun that shines over the rest of the world but the Nigerian sun has a smell. “It’s the same sun,” I hear you say. In theory yes, but those of you that know, know what I’m talking about. A few other smells assaulted my nostrils; stale air, sweat, damp and bodies…loads of bodies. Deodorant don finish for market? I smiled as nostalgia embraced me. It smelled like a QC (Queen’s College) dormitory.
There were kiosks everywhere, all selling epileptic looking chicken joints and leprous meat pies; the kind every parent warned would ‘purge you.’ The glass houses they were displayed in looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in months, if ever. In the distance a huge banner swayed to the rhythm of the breeze blowing from the ceiling fan above it; “Aqua Massage Before You Board.” To the right of the banner were two massage tables. Why anyone would want a massage at the airport, I know not.
Suitcases trickled onto the conveyor belt like drops of water from a dry tap.
“What is wrong with these people,” I heard a woman complain, “Do they think we want to sleep in this airport? They should free our luggage so we can go home.”
“Madam we are doing our best. Una think say na machine dey carry the load commot from plane?!”
“Are you crazy?Who do you think you are talking to?! You are silly. If you like your job you had better shut up and go and learn how to talk to people.”
“Madam, you sef no sabi talk to person…”
And so the woman began to trade insults with a member of FAAN’s staff. “Customer is King,” many organisations preach. Not in Nigeria. “Respect yourself” is the gospel we subscribe to.
“Madam, you wan use phone.” A young man shoved a battered looking mobile phone under my nose.
“No, thank you.”
“You sure say you no wan phone the person wey suppose come carry you?”
“I say I no want, na by force?” I responded, my tone laced with irritation. I’d been up since 4am and it was 9.30pm. My patience and tolerance were fast asleep.
“No vex now, madam. Credit nko, you go buy?
I stared at this young man desperate to get a few quid out of me. I reminded myself that all he was trying to do was make a living. I reminded myself of how much I despise ill-mannered people. I woke my conscience.
“Oga, I no want credit and I no wan use phone. I take God beg you, I don tire, I no fit talk. I beg leave me.”
To my relief, he apologised and walked away.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw my cousin, KFC, approaching. Home at last…or so I thought before we got lost. My cousin, EverReady, who was driving doesn’t know his way around Lagos and his two co-pilots, KFC and Efiko, who claimed they did, didn’t. Apparently they got lost on their way to the airport too. We found ourselves heading towards Badagry, a town on the Border of Lagos. KFC and Efiko consulted Google maps on their Blackberrys for directions. Google maps, in Lagos? Gen gen.
Why are people running across the motorway? Do they want to die? Only in Lagos. Only in Lagos will a man stand and chat on his phone in the middle of the express. Only in Lagos do people drive with the flat of their palms permanently depressing their horns…hazard looming or not.
I’m about to change gear. Toot toot!
I’m about to turn left. Toot toot!
Yay, Rhythm 93.7 is playing that song I like! Toot toot!
Aha, ki lo n se were yi. O ri moto mi abi nkan se e ni?! Kuro jare, oloshi! Toot toot toot!
It’s a miracle I didn’t lose my hearing.
I tried not to worry about the trailers and tankers surrounding us, all looking like the wind of a mosquito’s sneeze would topple them. I was too tired to worry about the way people were driving, like they had taken leave of their sense. They changed lanes without indicating, crossed intersections without looking left or right. They made sure the centers of their cars were comfortably sitting on the white lines Governor Fashola painted to clearly demarcate one lane from another. Apparently, the lines are there to be straddled.
I slept and prayed that by the time I opened my eyes again, it would be to the sight of my Uncle T’s house, my home for the next ten days.
I thank God for answered prayers.